May 1: International Workers Day Program in Tacoma

America in Solidarity , the Tacoma-based grassroots working families' advocacy group, will present a special May Day program intended to honor the sacrifices of workers throughout American history.

According to local volunteer and chair of Solidarity's Education Committee, Jeff Richardson, this event is designed to: "recapture the spirit of turn-of-the-century labor rallies. We hope to fill the bookstore with workers and their families to remember the struggles of all who helped build this modern Labor Movement."

The show will begin at 6 PM at King's Books in Tacoma (218 St. Helens Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402), and will feature Frank Blair and Traci Kelly of Tacoma's favorite progressive talk show, Equal Time for the Progressive Side(3). There will be labor songs, a few special guest appearances by local politicians, and an advance screening of a brand new film about a labor strike in West Virginia that paralyzed a town and galvanized a generation.

"The Battle of Local 5668"(4), a new documentary by Shawn Bennett and Kevin Jones, tells the harrowing story of workers locked out of their jobs at the Ravenswood Aluminum Plant(5) in Ravenswood, West Virginia. Cobbled together from live interviews, home video footage, and VHS tapes of local news coverage, this film attempts to recreate the feeling of living through a bitter labor dispute that seems to have no end in sight.

May Day, known for decades as International Workers Day(6), was first celebrated in 1886 as the beginning of the eight-hour day campaign. It took many years of concerted mass action to achieve, but eventually workers won out when the Federal government passed laws mandating overtime pay for any hours worked beyond eight.

Since that time, May Day has been celebrated around the world as a day of remembrance for workers and their unions. Though replaced by something called Loyalty Day(7) during the Eisenhower Administration (due to rabid anti-Communist sentiments prevalent at the time), International Workers Day is still celebrated in cities throughout America today. Last year, immigrants and immigrants' rights organizations used the day and its history as a backdrop for their Great American Boycott(8), designed to show the American people just how important immigrants are to our economy and society. This year, many cities plan to repeat that performance(9), following the President's proposed plans(10) to tighten border enforcement and force undocumented immigrants into further so-called "guestworker" programs.

For the past four years, America in Solidarity has presented some kind of program for workers, as way to both remember their long-forgotten history, as well as to honor those workers still struggling for better pay and working conditions today.

America in Solidarity's(10) first May Day celebration was held at the ILWU Hall in Fife and began the tradition of blending history with contemporary workers' struggles. At that event, Solidarity officially unveiled their Ottilie Markholt Scholarship Program(11), which to this date has disbursed four thousand dollars in scholarship funds to worthy students across the country.

In 2005, they held a picnic in the park and invited several important allies of working families, including Mayor Bill Baarsma(12) and Representative Derek Kilmer(13) (now a State Senator). The event featured music, free barbecue and several labor unions representing workers as diverse as electricians, grocery store clerks, and the Tacoma branch of the Industrial Workers of the World(14), one of America's oldest and most radical unions.

Last year, we held the event at the ILWU 23(15) Longshore Hall in Fife. Our keynote speaker was Julio Quan of Centro Latino(16), the Tacoma-based Hispanic services organization. Mr. Quan spoke passionately about the importance of maintaining solidarity with all workers, including immigrants and workers in other countries, touching on his experiences during the bloody Guatemalan Civil War(17), in which hundreds of trade unionists and college professors were brutally slain by right-wing paramilitary forces seeking to suppress the Guatemalan labor movement.

This year, we continue this proud tradition of worker solidarity by honoring the brave working people of Ravenswood, West Virginia, as well as those workers in our area still struggling(18) to earn wages and benefits that serve their members' needs.

This is a call for folks to come to Tacoma to celebrate the history of the American Labor Movement. May Day is the day we honor our forebears and charge forward to demand greater accountability from government and business, and better working conditions for all workers.

Jeff Richardson hopes that this event will inspire Tacoma's working people to redouble their efforts to improve society. According to Richardson:

"For everyone who's ever worked for an uncaring boss, or
struggled to win a union contract, for everyone who's ever
witnessed the harsh treatment meted out to picketers and
wanted to lend a hand, this day is for you. We urge you
to come and bring your message of hope for the workers
of today and those of tomorrow. This is your holiday, so
get out here and celebrate!"

The event will be held from 6 to 9 PM, at King's Books in Tacoma. The address is 218 St. Helens and refreshments will be provided.

The film will begin promptly at 7 PM. DVDs of the film will be available for purchase, as well as books about labor, local history, and countless other subjects. Attendees are encouraged to bring family and friends, and as always at Solidarity events, any donations will be greatly appreciated.

About the group:

America in Solidarity is an all-volunteer, grassroots organization committed to reviving the American labor movement by education, mobilization, and agitation. Solidarity's members pledge to support, with their time and energy, political candidates that have pledged to support working families. To view the Pledge for Working Families(19), as well as to learn more about the candidates who've signed the pledge, visit their website at
Their office can be reached by calling 253-471-1123.

About the author:

Jeff Richardson is Education Director for America in Solidarity. He is a letter carrier with the United States Postal Service, a delegate to the Pierce County Central Labor Council from his union (NALC 130), an organizer of the recent Tahoma Progressive Media Conference(20) held in October of last year, and he currently edits the blog The Tahoma Activist(21).

Additional Contacts:

America in Solidarity

3049 S. 36th St. #205, Tacoma, WA 98409
253-471-1123 - Email:

AIS President, Todd Iverson 253-219-8717
AIS Vice-President, Gail Ross 253-732-2959

King's Books

218 St. Helens Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402
toll free (877) 529-9525
local (253)272-8801
fax # (253) 272-2022

Battle of Local 5668

Writer/Director/Producer - The Battle of Local 5668
310-729-9080 Cell



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